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Community Blog How Can Your E-commerce Business Avoid a Black Friday Digital Traffic Jam?

How Can Your E-commerce Business Avoid a Black Friday Digital Traffic Jam?

Ensure your e-commerce business can support the peak traffic demands and high consumer expectations of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

For e-commerce companies, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a traffic bonanza powered by deep discounts, astute marketing and growing consumer awareness. However, if the infrastructure powering e-commerce websites and applications fails to accommodate these peaks -- resulting in delayed or incomplete loading and failed transactions -- companies can experience reputational and financial damage they may never recover from. These events are critical showcases for their capabilities at a time when e-commerce continues to surge across Asia -- a recent report released by Facebook and Bain & Co. reveals 70 million people alone in Southeast Asia became digital consumers since the start of the pandemic -- with consumers shopping across an average of 7.9 websites in 2021 compared to 5.2 in 2020.

To overcome the traffic challenges presented by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, e-commerce companies need look no further than the Alibaba Group 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. The transaction volumes generated during this e-commerce shopping event is staggering -- just after midnight on 11 November 2020, Tmall experienced a peak of 583,000 orders in one second, the most recorded during Alibaba’s Double 11 Festival, a world record and 1,457 times the peak achieved during the first Double 11 in 2009. For the 2021 Double 11 Festival, gross merchandise volume climbed to a new high of $84.54 billion, while the event brought together at least 900 million consumers in China and 290,000 brands.

Supporting demand peaks requires scalability, resilience and performance that does not falter as traffic escalates. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not periods when providers should experiment with or rely on unproven infrastructure -- they need to look to proven products, battle-hardened from the delivery of multiple large-scale e-commerce promotions and capable of adjusting resource volumes and traffic volumes quickly to manage sudden traffic spikes. On-premises data center deployments are typically maintenance- and resource-intensive and, for e-commerce use cases, not cost effective as providers would need to invest in excess hardware to support demand peaks. Only cloud can enable e-commerce providers to meet the challenges of scalabi lity, performance and cost-effectiveness in today’s environment.

Scalable compute

For most e-commerce companies, accessing required infrastructure capacity quickly and cost-effectively is a key issue during demand peaks. Alibaba Cloud’s Elastic Compute Service (ECS) supports many of the products and services required to deliver the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival and other peak events effectively. ECS delivers virtual instances in minutes, scalability at a clear, transparent cost and security group features that enable users to control inbound and outbound access policies and port listening status. Used with Server Load Balancer integrated with Auto Scaling, ECS provided an IaaS solution in which traffic was distributed effectively among multiple instances that were scaled to support demand. ECS Bare Metal Instances delivered complementary elasticity and performance to help meet the challenge.

Powerful security

Security is critical to e-commerce providers, with threats including distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks launched by multiple attackers or from multiple servers and the abuse of promotion codes and coupons. To avoid being compromised by these threats, providers can turn to cloud-based protection solutions such as Alibaba Cloud Security a product and service that builds on basic defense and security services to include full-stack security solutions, with its capabilities spanning network security, server security, application security and business security. E-commerce providers can use the power and capability of Alibaba Group’s own DDoS protection products and services such as Anti-DDoS to mitigate sophisticated attacks and quickly adjust protection policies.

Anti-DDoS is proven to combat DDoS attacks at scale, mitigating around 2,500 daily and protecting against attacks of 1 Tbit/s. Combining Anti-DDoS with products such as Web Application Firewall (WAF), that uses the intelligent capabilities of Alibaba Cloud Security to protect websites and web servers -- helps ensure e-commerce providers can operate without disruption during normal periods -- and during peaks such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Robust data management

Storing, processing, analyzing and managing customer, product and transactional data is also core to the success of an e-commerce operation -- and scalability and continued performance during peak periods is essential. In 2020, Alibaba Cloud relied on cloud-native databases that supported online transaction processing, combined with offline batch processing and big data workloads to achieve zero downtime during the Alibaba Double 11 Festival, with PolarDB handling 140 million queries per second during the peak and, cloud-native data warehouse AnalyticDB processing up to 7.7 trillion lines of real-time data during the event.

Furthermore, services such as ApsaraDBS for MySQL -- give e-commerce providers access to a guaranteed SLA of 99.99%, while AliSQL -- an independent MySQL branch developed by Alibaba Cloud - has been worked on for five-plus years to enhance its competence in handling highly concurrent requests, with additional capabilities including thread pool, parallel replication and implicit primary key increasing input/output operations per second and making database instances more stable. The service is also certified by more than 10 authorities for its security, with features including IP whitelists and SSL encryption of data transmission.

Location, location, location

E-commerce providers that aim to serve customers in different countries as well as their own need to provide all visitors to their websites with a fast, reliable experience -- at all times. Alibaba Cloud has 13 data centers across the Asia Pacific, plus a Content Delivery Network (CDN) featuring 1,500-plus nodes globally with 120Tbps of bandwidth that enables a rapid response to user requests and an overall increased response rate. Known also for resolving the delivery latency issues caused by distribution, bandwidth and server performance issues, CDN’s performance and reliability reflects its role as a core enabling technology for the Alibaba Double 11 Festival, with the service providing and reserving more than 100Tbps of bandwidth for dozens of services during the event. Lazada -- the largest B2C platform in Southeast Asia – used CDN to help deliver static and streaming content to users at low latency. In addition, Secure DCDN (Dynamic Route for CDN) -- incorporates enhanced security capabilities to ensure safe content delivery.

Compelling search

Powerful search is key for e-commerce providers, particularly during high-traffic events such as the Alibaba Double 11 Festival, Black Friday and Easter Monday as users target specific products, brands or categories. Advanced machine learning and deep learning created by e-commerce website Taobao powers Alibaba Cloud search products such as Image Search, that enables users to take a screenshot or upload an image to locate products, and OpenSearch, an intelligent search platform optimized for use cases in e-commerce and other sectors that serves more than 500 business cases in Alibaba Group and thousands of Alibaba Cloud customers. This product delivers the millisecond level query delay and 10,000-plus query-per-second capabilities that e-commerce businesses need to support user demand during peak events.

Events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday generate massive volumes of data that e-commerce providers can analyze for trends and insights into customer behavior, and make decisions that improve products and experiences, optimize operations and streamline supply chains. E-MapReduce is a proven, enterprise-ready big data platform built on ECS instances and based on Hadoop and Spark, plays a core role in the big data platform used by Alibaba Group and Alibaba Cloud to help understand consumer preferences across products, styles and categories, what products merchants should stock and how to optimize supply chain performance. In addition, Quick BI enables businesses to perform analytics, exploration and reporting on data, with the product integrating data seamlessly from cloud and local files.

Live shopping

Livestreaming is becoming an increasingly important and potent tool to engage customers, showcased by Taobao Live featuring more than 700 key opinion leaders, celebrities and brand representatives in sessions during the Double 11 Festival. These events enable audience members to buy products introduced by an event host and ask the host questions -- improving engagement and purchasing intention. Tapping into this fast-growing segment quickly means working with a provider experienced in and proven to deliver. Alibaba Cloud provides livestreaming services across its reliable global network with high definition and low latency; ApsaraVideo Live provides live audio and video services that enable e-commerce providers to run livestreaming and other video-based interactive events via live shopping platforms across social media, applications and websites, featuring synchronous playback on multiple clients and video capture SDK and video playback SDK for all platforms. Furthermore, ApsaraVideo VOD provides smooth playback as well as content auditing, analysis and delivery acceleration, and other key features.

The products and use cases listed here illustrate the opportunity e-commerce providers have to work with Alibaba Cloud to meet the challenges of increased scale, better performance and higher availability in a fast-growing market.

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Iain Ferguson

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